Beautiful Bend

In the shadows of Mt. Bachelor, a Central Oregon custom shop builds cabinetry that's 'designed to inspire.'

By Michaelle Bradford
Design Cabinetry Inc.

Bend, OR

Year founded: 1998

Employees: 11

Shop Size: 7,500 sq. ft.

FYI: Mark Rooks' career in woodworking started in college when he built a dresser to take back to school. His girlfriend at the time sold it to her dad sight unseen, and "it just kind of took off from there," he says.

The town of Bend, OR, is a nature lover's paradise. (At one point it was known as Farewell Bend, but according to local lore, a U.S. Postmaster shortened the name because he thought it was too long.) Located in the central part of the state, it is surrounded by the Cascade Mountain Range. An extinct volcano, Pilot Butte, sits just east of downtown. The area offers a number of year-round activities, such as skiing, golfing, fishing and hiking - all of which are turning this quaint town into a fast-growing, high-end resort area.

The influx of tourists and new residents is driving new developments, like Pronghorn Resort just outside of Bend. These new properties include subdivisions with executive-style homes that require high-quality custom casework.

This is all good news to Mark Rooks, owner of Design Cabinetry Inc. in Bend. In fact, Rooks relocated his custom shop to take advantage of the opportunities flooding into the region.

In the middle of September 2005, Rooks moved his company to its current location. It is actually only two blocks from its previous spot. But the changes had more to do with the image Rooks wants to display to his prospective clients than its geography.

"The primary reason for the move was for overall appearance, because we didn't have any office space," Rooks says.

The former location had two offices that were shared by three people, he explains. Everyone had to conduct their client meetings in the same space.

"The facility was so small, and it was ridiculous how many dollars we were doing in a 3,000 square-foot building.

"As far as [the] clientele goes, it was just not a presentable picture all the way around," Rooks adds.

The cabinets in this kitchen were fabricated from knotty alder and have a furniture look that includes features such as turned posts, bun feet and corbels.

The current location has 7,500 square feet and includes a boardroom with a big screen television. Rooks says it gives him an advantage over his competitors because his clients tend to be high-level executives.

"We need to make [an impression on] these people that [shows] we are not working out of a backyard garage, you know - meeting at the cafe and drawing on the back of a napkin," he says.

Many of Bend's new residents are building a second or third home in the region. According to Rooks, one draw is the golf course at Pronghorn that was designed by Jack Nicklaus. It is attracting people from all over the world, he says.

"We're not just seeing people from Seattle, Portland and the Bay area, they are coming from everywhere."

Design Cabinetry's work is 100 percent residential, but the company markets to mostly local builders, architects and designers.

"We let the contractor pre-qualify [the customers] before they bring them to us, and then we take it from there," Rooks says, adding that he does not want people to call unsolicited, because he is trying to fill a niche in the growing high-end executive home market.

How It Started

The company got its start in the high-end market through a contractor's brother who was looking to build a house in the area, Rooks says.

Design Cabinetry had worked with the contractor, so the company's name was on the list of subcontractors given to the brother.

"The DeMarco Home was the job that kicked us off into the executive home end," Rooks says. "The contractor was like an interior architect, so his drawings were just blow-out phenomenal. That's what launched us into getting away from mundane cabinetry and into doing things like the turned post, the four- or five-piece crown mouldings and special furniture feet - the fun stuff where we can mix it up."

Rooks says after that job, he decided to go after the high-end market, and the timing could not have been more perfect.

"I kept seeing all this interest weighing heavy toward the higher-end homes. It was about the time when more and more people with a lot of money were showing up," he says.

According to Mark Rooks, owner, crown mouldings and stainless steel appliance packages, as shown left, are very popular for kitchens in the region.

According to Rooks, it was about three to four years ago "when money started flowing into the area, and things were really kicking into high gear."

He put a photo of the DeMarco job on the wall, and business just took off from there, he says.

Investing in the Future

Along with the move to the new location, Rooks also made an investment in new machinery with the purchase of a Busellato CNC machining center from Delmac Machinery Group.

"It has totally revolutionized our production and our quality as well, because everything is so accurately done," he says.

Previous investments in equipment include an Altendorf sliding table saw, purchased more than eight years ago. Rooks says that it allowed the company to make its own parts instead of farming them out to someone else.

The shop, set up in a horseshoe pattern, also includes a Timesavers overhead planer/sander, Powermatic table saw, Holz-Her edgebander, a dust collection system, two line boring machines and a Schmalz vacuum lift.

All of the adjustments in the shop were made because more work was coming in, and jobs were getting much larger, Rooks says. "Our average job size has at least doubled, if not tripled."

At the time of CWB's visit, four projects were ongoing and three of them were for the Pronghorn subdivision. The jobs ranged from $80,000 to $100,000 and included buildouts for the kitchen, laundry, home offices, entertainment centers, five to six baths, wineries and a few closets.

Growing Challenges

Even with the improvements in the shop, Rooks says the company could face a challenge if it picks up a new account that could possibly quadruple its sales.

Design Cabinetry will fabricate a complete buildout for the entire home, including kitchens, baths and closets.

"We're looking to go from about $1.4 million in 2006 to - if we get this pending new account - it could jump to $6 million," he says.

The new account would require the company to take a facility and basically duplicate it. Rooks is concerned about the manpower required to complete the task. Currently he has 11 employees. He brought on three new people when the company moved, but the new project could require adding 150 percent more staff.

A Northwest Green Theme

One look at Design Cabinetry's portfolio and it is evident why the business is growing. It provides a glimpse of everything one envisions about the Pacific Northwest and more; from furniture-style kitchen cabinets to elaborate home offices and luxurious closets, the photos provide a vision of rustic beauty.

Knotty alder is the wood most requested by Design Cabinetry's clientele to create the Pacific Northwest style.

"They want something rustic, something with a lot of character," Rooks says, "and knotty alder ties in with the Pacific Northwest, because that's where the majority of it comes from. It's excellent to work with."

Rooks says that his customers have become more knowledgeable and involved in the process. As a result, many of them, who are baby boomers, want the company to adhere to green building practices.

"They want the formaldehyde-free melamines. They want the water-based finishes and, at the same time, they want something unique," he says.

For the most part, Rooks says the green specification requests have not been a problem as long as the products are stocked. Most of the difficulty he has encountered generally has been related to trying to get an exotic veneer.

"Three years ago, we couldn't get green building [material] around here. But so many people are asking for it that it has come online in a hurry. So the suppliers have really stepped up to take good care of us," he says.

One new green product that is creating a buzz, Rooks says, is Richlite laminate sheets for countertops. It is a green resource fabricated from recycled paper, he says.

"We've only carried it for five to six months, but it has taken off. Everybody is tired of granite, stones and solid surfaces," Rooks says. "They're looking for something new."

Although Design Cabinetry theoretically is only a fabricator, Richlite has had trouble finding a representative in the area, so for now, the company is acting as a quasi-dealer. Rooks says he learned about the product from a designer, and when he looked into it, he discovered that it fabricates like wood. "It fits all of our tools and knowledge, and it fits into our program," he says.

Future Plans

With current growth already increasing dramatically, Rooks' medium-range plans for the future are to grow the company to three to four times its current size in the next five years. The short-term goal for 2006 is to not take on more volume, but get more profit out of jobs.

With all of its recent changes, Rooks says the company has received excellent feedback from its customers, which fits into his goal to be the shop to go to in the Tri-county area for "something unique and special, made with integrity."



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